Years ago I had a dear friend who was the mother of five children. She was a well-balanced, positive, and wonderful person but she always had severe bouts of post-partum depression after her babies were born. When I mentioned hormones she shook her head and said, “No, that's not it. When I'm carrying my babies they are all mine. But once they are born they belong to others and I feel such a sense of loss.” Since I have never been pregnant, let alone borne a child, I can only imagine. Unless...
One of the most interesting things about publishing a new book is the questions you get as soon as people start reading it. When a writer is engaged in the writing process he/she is spinning a world into being and that world makes sense to them. But the minute that world is put into the hands of readers things shift. Hopefully, in good ways. Now that Each Angel Burns is out in the world and readers are reading it (thank you, God) and sending emails I realize how what was once my baby is no more. I was particularly interested in a comment made by a young man who was in the middle of the book. He said, “My girlfriend is really into angels and I was going to tell her to read this but I don't think she'd like it. Your angel Gabriel is one scary dude.” I loved that.
According to the Catholic lore that informs my writer's imagination the archangels were God's warriors in the battle with the Evil One. Gabriel, which means “God's Strength”, was not to be messed with. Those who remember Bible stories remember Gabriel as the angel who announced to Mary that she was to be the mother of the son of God but in the Old Testament Book of Daniel Gabriel appears and, according to Daniel, was so terrifying that he fell on his face in fear.
A lot of New Age thinkers believe that Gabriel was actually female and always use the pronoun “she” when referring to Gabriel. This may be partially because of Gabriel's association with maternity in announcing the births of both John the Baptist and Jesus.
In Islamic lore, Gabriel is responsible for dictating the Koran to Muhammed. And one night when Muhammed was weary it was Gabriel who provided him with a potion ( many claim it was coffee) which gave the prophet the strength to defeat 40 horsemen and satisfy 40 women. What an angel!!!
In Talmudic tradition Gabriel is the fierce defender of priests and is said to be the mightiest of all God's warriors. It was this latter claim that fired my imagination in the creation of my story. I suppose I could have used any angel but it was Gabriel, protector of priests, that best suited the story.
Angels have become very popular in recent years. I've read good many of the books that have been published on the subject and, while some are charming, the angels they described were a little too fluffy for both my personal beliefs and for my story. It is important to remember that Lucifer was once an angel and he is the most formidable of all foes. Regardless of how you feel about angels there is no denying that there is both great evil and great good in our world. Angels, whether figments of one's imagination or embodiments of archetypal energies, are as powerful as the forces they represent.
In the story Father Flynn, the Jesuit expert on the missing statue, while talking about the sculptor Giovanni Dupré (1817-1882), says that he sculpted all three of the archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. While Dupré was a real figure in history, the only archangel I am aware that he actually sculpted was Michael, whose head (below) appears on the books cover. That statue is in the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence. The Dupré statue of Gabriel in the book is purely a figment of my imagination but I suspect that if Dupré had sculpted him he would be much as described in the story, complete with lily and flaming spear. Many contemporary illustrations of Gabriel show him as a fearsome warrior, not the gentle figure portrayed in traditional church icons (top left).
So, in response to the comment made by the wonderful young man who is reading my book, “Yes, my Gabriel is fierce indeed --- he needs to be.”
Thanks for reading.